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Historical Sampler – Company for the Motifs

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25 July 2008

Historical Sampler – Company for the Motifs

scrolling_and_detached copy

The photograph above shows the kind of design I want to do.

Unfortunately, it’s a terrible photograph. It could be seen marginally better if clicked upon for a larger image.

It’s from the Batsford Book of Canvas, Mary Rhodes –

"Panel embroidery of the late sixteenth century.

This panel … is worked on linen canvas in tent stitch with couched threads and some raised work.

Victoria and Albert Museum."

It actually has at least detached motif. There’s that flower on the left hand side, about half way down, unless I'm mistaken.

The Elizabethans did raised work. That is, they stuffed some motifs (eg leaves) with cotton, wool, string or hair.

It wasn’t until the 17th C that stumpwork, with detached leaves and flower petals, (usually done in a buttonhole stitch) commenced.

This is a late 16C piece that seems to combine the two.

In the same way, my sampler will be a mixture of the 2 centuries – containing a scrollwork framework (very typical of the 16thC), some raised work (16thC) and some of the detached work typical of stumpwork (17thC)

The panel contains canvas work, which I won't be doing.


I've been thinking about the motifs.

In 16thC scrolling vine designs, a flower usually doesn't sit alone within it's own 'circle of the scroll'.

It has with it leaves, maybe buds, a second flower (maybe partially opened) or the relevant fruit with it. (I'm thinking here in terms of fruit of pea flowers and pea pods).

The 17thC stumpwork was usually some kind of scene, usually containing a sun and clouds, people, maybe a building, and flowers and animals on the same scale (ie disproportionately large).

In collecting the designs for these 17thC motifs from places on-line like the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I've got the motifs, but nothing to surround them when I place them in within the scrollwork. The flowers in the stumpwork pieces often appear on a single stem with a leaf or two.

So I'm turning to Pattern Books and extant pieces of embroidery that are of similiar scrollwork design to find some company for them.

This is my best source :


from the Catalogue of English Embroidery by John Nevinson, Plate XI. (again, the larger image is clearer, but unfortunately not by much. The bits at the edges are more visible that in the interior)

Edit : The picture is also shown in "The Embroiderer's Flowers" by Thomasina Beck, page 64
It can also be seen far more clearly at

There are heaps of scrollwork pieces but they often have just leaves as company. This piece has lots of interesting additions.

Other sources are



Embroidery Pattern book, early to mid 17th century, English. V&A museum, London

  • and any other suitable extant embroideries that I can find.

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Blogger Dragonsally said...

It will be an amazing piece of work.

I'm overawed just thinking about it.

Friday, July 25, 2008  
Blogger Elmsley Rose said...

So am I ......

Got to be careful. Less is more. Tho the Elizabethans liked to cover every square cm.

Saturday, July 26, 2008  
Blogger Elmsley Rose said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Saturday, July 26, 2008  

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